ESAs Advance to Another State—Will Pa. Be Next?

This week, North Carolina became the sixth state to authorize education savings accounts (ESAs)—flexible spending accounts used by parents to customize their child’s education. Beginning in the fall of 2018, children with special needs in North Carolina may use a state-issued debit card to cover private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, curricula, educational therapy, and transportation. North Carolina already enjoys two popular voucher programs, but lawmakers recognized the demand for school choice outpaced what was available to families.

The state of play is similar in Pennsylvania, where legislators are similarly working to pass ESAs. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians benefit from charter schools, tax credit scholarships, and homeschooling—yet there are still children stuck on waiting lists, unable to enroll in a school best suited to their individual needs. Many other families are consigned to persistently underperforming public schools—seemingly without viable alternatives—notwithstanding record levels of spending in Pennsylvania’s public schools.

This is where ESAs can fill a void. Empowered with ESAs, parents are no longer limited to the neighborhood school. Instead, parents are entrusted to design and customize an educational plan for their children. Despite being a relatively new school choice option, ESAs have proven popular with parents across the country. It’s no wonder 20 states are pursuing ESA legislation in 2017.

North Carolina’s ESA program will be a lifeline for children like Libby:

With the passage of ESAs, North Carolina lawmakers secured a critical victory for parental choice and educational excellence. Pennsylvania should follow in their footsteps.